Like most guys, I’ve always had a fondness for Jeeps. The classic looks, coupled with off road capability brings to mind thoughts of cruising down to Baja with a blonde and a surfboard. As often happens with such fantasies though, reality is a whole different image. There is little place for a 4 passenger convertible in a family of five. Why oh why can’t they just add another seat to the classic Jeep body style. Hey wait! They’ve done just that! The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is a 4 door, 5 passenger machine with rough and ready looks and a removable top to boot. Maybe I’ve gone to heaven.
Visually, what more can you say. It looks like a Jeep, just a tiny bit longer and wider. It comes with BF Goodrich Mud Terrain T/A’s that are just big enough to get the look right without making it a challenge to get in. The roof is a cool sectional affair that allows the outdoors in. All the rugged stuff doesn’t mean that creature comforts are forgotten. There is a cool overhead media bar that includes lights and speakers. It even has power windows. In today’s world, that’s not too remarkable, but I remember a time when Jeeps arrived at the dealership with no carpet or door locks. The spare tire swings away with the rear door to reveal a cargo area that is a usable size.
Out on the trails at the IMPA Test Days, I was eager to see if the Wrangler had the goods to live up to the heritage it has behind it. With a 202 HP, 3.8 L V6, the Wrangler is no slouch in the power department. Power in the tester went through a 4 speed automatic transmission to a heavy duty Rock-Trac transfer case on it’s way to electronically locking Dana differentials. This is all the tough stuff that serious wheelers look for. Beyond the mechanical goodies, the Wrangler doesn’t have some of the electronic trickery that many of the other trucks tested had. That’s because the Jeep is the real deal and doesn’t need them. It barely noticed the climbs or ruts on the trails and traveled cleanly through the rock garden without any slips or slides. over the whoops, the long wheelbase Wrangler did manage to scrape it’s substantial skid plates in one spot but otherwise felt calm and composed. It also looked great doing it as the photos show. On the tower drop in, the Wrangler picked it’s way carefully down the steep incline without the need for hill descent control.
Overall, the Wrangler felt as or more capable as the G55 at close to a quarter of the price. It also manages to feel a whole bunch tougher while doing it. Chrysler has a winner on their hands with this one.